Monday, June 30, 2014

The Gift of Persecution

What does the Bible says about those who oppose the Gospel? This in particular is what Philippians 1:28 says: “And not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God.” Paul was writing about those who stood against the church in Philippi as they attempted to spread the Gospel through their city.

First, their opposition is “a proof of perdition.” The fact that they are opposing the Gospel is proof that they are lost and hell bound, Unless they repent of their sin and trust Christ, their fate is the lake of fire to burn in conscious torment for eternity.

Remember, God has the last laugh. Like someone said, “I read the back of the book and we win.” Our side is the winning side. In the early Roman Empire, a scoffer asked a Christian, “What is your carpenter doing now?” And the Christian replied, “Making a coffin for your emperor.” Their persecution is proof of their doom.

The second thing this verse teaches is, “But to you of salvation, and that from God.” Whereas their opposition proves their lost-ness, it also proves your salvation. The fact that you are out witnessing is evidence that you have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light - it’s “proof” you are saved.

Being in the battle on the Lord’s side really does show which side you are on. So the opposition isn’t supposed to be a discouragement to you, but an assurance of your salvation. It should give you confidence that you are on the right track. So, don’t think of opposition as something dreadful, as though God were punishing you. Instead, it is a privilege to suffer for Christ.

Philippians 1:29-30 teaches:
29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.
Do you see this? It says that suffering for Christ’s sake has been “granted” to us. That word, “granted,” is charizo in Greek. It comes from the same root as charis, which means grace. God’s grace is what really brings us the suffering. The suffering is a gift from God. It is a special privilege reserved for God’s choice servants. Therefore, suffering shouldn’t be something that robs us of our joy, but it should almost be considered something that brings us joy. We have been counted worthy, Amen?

But the only way we can make it through our sufferings is because God first gives us faith. See the verse? Philippians 1:29, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Faith is given to us first.

Ephesians 2:8 says: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” What is the gift of God? Salvation? Oh, yes. But also, according to the Greek grammar of this verse, so is the faith. God provides us the faith we need. He gives us the faith we need to believe Him for salvation, and He gives us the faith we need to live for Him in spite of suffering and persecution. So there is nothing to be alarmed about when it comes. And believer after believer down through the ages by the multitude has faced their suffering with courage and grace. This is a gift of God to His chosen ones. And if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are a chosen one of His. And as the verse says, what He gives us to do is all “for His sake.” So what a glorious honor He has bestowed on us.

So again, let’s go back to Paul’s motto in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Is that becoming your motto? Your code of conduct? You can live for yourself or you can live for Christ. The choice is yours. But Paul wants to make sure we know the importance of our choices. So he tells us in Philippians 1:27, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ."

Friday, June 20, 2014

Let's Act Like A Team

We are to strive together for the faith of the Gospel.

Philippians 1:27 states,
“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel”
That phrase, “striving together,” is one word in Greek. It comes from the word for athlete, athleo, combined with the prefix, sun, which means with or together. It makes us think of competing on a team - like a football team where everyone has a part to play in harmony with each other. The line has to block and keep out the defenders. The receivers have to run their patterns as called for by the play. And the quarterback counts on it all coming together so he has time to get off that pass. And when it all comes together - touchdown!

But, if people don’t follow the plays as they are called, all you get is chaos and failure. No one knows what the other one is doing, and no one can count on the other players. But if we all play our part, if we strive together, we can do it!

This makes sense. We are supposed to be a team working together in the church. We together work for the common prize. And if we don’t work together, if we don’t demonstrate teamwork. we will never achieve the victory. But when we play like a team, Yes! Victory!

Now, Satan knows that a house divided against itself can’t stand. So one of his most common tactics is to get us fighting with each other, and usually over some of the silliest things. Like on a team, someone wants the glory, so he becomes a ball hog, and the others get resentful so they quit doing their part. Or someone skips practice and breaks training, and he lets the rest of the team down. Many great teams with outstanding athletes never win the championships because each player is out for his own glory while less talented teams that pull together win it all.

No! We must “strive together for the faith of the Gospel.” That’s our game plan! We are to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world as our enemy, the devil and his minions, try to stop us. We are on the offense – they are on the defense. We have the ball and we have a game plan. We just need to execute that plan together as a team joined arm in arm and heart to heart.

But now look at this next verse. Philippians 1:28 says, “And not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God.” We could paraphrase that as, “Don’t be alarmed by your opponents. Don’t let them get you shaking in your boots.”

I know that that is common in athletics. When I played high school football on a small class B team. We had one game against a big class A team from the big city, and they had on their team the best running back in the state. He was big and fast and powerful and was setting all kinds of rushing records in the state by simply running over tacklers or dragging three or four of them along with him. If you tackled him, it was going to hurt. You knew you would pay a price. And a lot of the guys on the team were shying away from taking the punishment it would take to bring him down. Now we knew this from the scouting reports the week before we played, and a lot of the team, and I think even the coaches, were literally dreading the game.

This is what Paul is talking about here. Sometimes it hurts to spread the gospel. Look at the bruisings Paul had taken while doing it. And I’m sure this is why so few Christians actually proclaim the Gospel. A lot of people that make attempts at witnessing get bloody noses and black eyes, so they start to shy away from doing it again. But Paul says, “Oh, No! Don’t do it! Don’t let them scare you.” We don’t have to be afraid of them. Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. So share the Gospel fearlessly.